I didn’t bother making any shiny new resolutions for my writing life this year. Sure, things had gotten a little out of control lately. I’d been stuck on the same plot problem (as in, I didn’t actually have one) for months. But that was okay, because I had Important Things to Do. Like check my Twitter feed.
As I scrolled along, lounging in bed past the usual time for my morning coffee run, I came across the following quote, from none other than A.A. Milne:
“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.”
Well, that made perfect sense. I wasn’t sure whether it was actually Winnie-the-Pooh or ol’ A.A. himself who’d said it, but clearly I needed to get organized before I could solve that pesky synopsis problem. Maybe I should clean another closet or two, in hopes of spurring a subconscious break-through. So far in the new year, though, I hadn’t made much progress on either the purging or plotting.
Besides, what I really needed to do was the first assignment for the online writing course I’d signed up for in desperation. The instructor had asked us to come up with personal mottos for our writerly lives. Ugh. That was way too hard.
Then my eye caught another Tweet: Marie Kondo, Japanese slayer of all things clutter, had proclaimed that no one should own more than 30 books, and her statement had drawn unbridled ire from all corners of the Twitterverse. I was equally outraged. Take that, Marie! You know nothing.
There was also a link to Marie’s reality-home-organization show on Netflix, which debuted earlier this month. One of the shows featured a pair of writers who had too many books and papers. I ran downstairs in my bunny slippers, hippety-hop to the TV and my husband’s massive recliner.
The first thing Marie does when she enters a cluttered home is kneel on the floor to thank the house for sheltering the owners, who sit on the couch, initially mystified. She asks them to envision the sanctuary they’d like their house to become.
As soon as the spell is broken, the owners’ apologies and guilt pour out. They have this and that and oh-yikes-THIS pile of clutter. They’re so ashamed and sorry and bewildered, and they want to do better. Marie just smiles. She doesn’t run from a challenge. She loves a challenge.
I went on a full-out Kondo binge—the TV show, not the actual decluttering part. No surprise: my favorite episode was the one about the writers. But it wasn’t about them tossing their books. It was about their finding joy. They both had different joys, as it turned out—but they helped each other find it, as Marie gently pointed them in the right direction. One of the writers seemed a lot like me. I sniffled as he chose which of his precious books and childhood writing efforts sparked the most joy above all the others. (Spoiler: Don’t worry, he keeps the writing notebook.)
As I watched each of Marie’s clients create mountains of stuff on their beds and living room floors, dragging clothes and toys and lamps from every part of the house to evaluate, I understood she was showing them how many things they owned, often completely forgotten. They couldn’t even find the objects that sparked joy and needed to be kept—because the people were stressed and tired, and the clutter was suffocating their most beloved items.
And then…I got it.
I launched myself from the recliner. Destination: dish towel drawer. I would put my faith in Marie and her methods and give this joy thing a try. But then I skidded to a stop. Would Marie rush like this? No, she would not. I took a few deep breaths, doing my best to summon serenity, and dumped all the towels onto the kitchen table. Did I really have that many St. Paddy’s Day towels? I’d never even used them. But I carefully and correctly folded each one, discarded a few, and sorted by color.
I proudly showed my husband my handiwork. “Aren’t you supposed to be writing?” he said.
“Well, yes,” I told him. “But I am, sort of. I’m working toward it.”
He rolled his eyes, and asked me please not to Konmari his sock drawer.
I agreed, and glided…oh so gracefully…toward my computer. Then I triumphantly wrote my new writing motto on a sticky note and plastered it on the screen.
Thank you, Marie. If you can love a mess, then I can, too.
Readers, what is your biggest challenge–or your biggest joy–right now? Let us know in the comments section!